King, president of Marietta-based pro-immigration enforcement group the Dustin Inman Society, points to recently released U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement figures that claims the U.S. deported a record 396,906 illegal immigrants in fiscal year 2011. An ICE news release said the record is in line with the Obama administration’s focus on identifying and removing illegal immigrants who have broken laws, threaten national security, are recent border crossers, are repeat immigration law violators or immigration court fugitives.
King said this is an example of Obama trying to portray himself as tough on illegal immigration.
“President Obama desperately needs to create an image of enthusiastic immigration enforcer,” King said.
But when he is dealing with Hispanic voters, Obama turns the focus elsewhere, King said. He points to an account of an online roundtable hosted by Yahoo!, MSN Latino, AOL Latino and HuffPost Latino Voices, in which Obama distanced himself from the ICE figures, saying they were “a little deceptive,” according to a Yahoo! Story about the event.
Obama said the numbers could be misleading because they included apprehensions made at the border, not just illegal immigrants taken into custody inside the United States, according to the online story.
But King said it is Obama who has moved away from past reporting methods and instead had the Department of Homeland Security combine the statistics. He points to Customs and Border Protection statistics that show border apprehensions exceeding 1 million in 2004 and 2005.
“The President of the United States is pulling a fast one on the American public with the assistance of the media,” he said. “These are nowhere near record numbers.”
But ICE spokeswoman Danielle Bennett said the numbers the agency released only include apprehensions made within the United States. Immigrants caught at the border are calculated by the border patrol, she said.
While she said the agency did make a change in 2007 that started counting people who are deported voluntarily in its figures, that happened while George W. Bush was still president.
“There has never been any change related to how we count removals from one administration to the next,” she said.
A voluntary deportation means the subject faces no penalty for returning to the U.S. because they were never formally charged
ICE statistics do show jumps in deportation numbers in the years after voluntary removals were counted. In fiscal year 2006, the agency removed 207,776 illegal immigrants. That increased to 291,060 in 2007, 369,221 in 2008 and has continued to rise every year since.
Michael Opitz, founder of the Marietta-based Madison Forum, points to a news release from Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which accuses Obama of “cooking the books” and enacting “amnesty through inaction” by including voluntary removals of immigrants.
In 2010, 64,000 of the claimed of the 392,862 illegal immigrants removed from the United States were voluntary, Jessica Baker, spokeswoman for the Republican staff of the Judiciary Committee, said in an e-mail.
“A single alien can show up at the border and be voluntarily returned numerous times in a single year — and counted each time as a removal,” she wrote.
Opitz said he feels someone needs to look into the claims.
“Somebody is not telling the truth,” he said. “And that’s all the more reason for an investigation.”